Where Is Apple's 5K Thunderbolt Display?

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    It is approaching five years since Apple began shipping the Thunderbolt Display in September 2011, leading many to wonder when the monitor will receive a long-anticipated update, if ever.

    Apple could have refreshed the Thunderbolt Display with USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2 and a tapered iMac-style design as early as 2013, but it has chosen not to do that. The company continues to sell the 2011 27" model with USB 2.0 and first-generation Thunderbolt ports for $999.

    So, what has been the holdup? The answer likely lies in supply chain considerations and connectivity.


    4K Thunderbolt Display

    Many have been long hoping that Apple would release a 4K Thunderbolt Display, considering that the latest Macs, and most models refreshed since late 2013, can be used with at least one 4K display.

    But, typically, standalone Apple displays have shared the same screens as iMacs. Since Apple skipped over a 4K 27" iMac, Apple would have to source a separate screen to release a 4K Thunderbolt Display, and the product may be too niche for that to be worthwhile.

    Meanwhile, with Thunderbolt 3 rolling out this year, it seems unlikely that Apple will bother with a refreshed non-4K Thunderbolt Display in the interim. So, as time goes on, the more likely possibility is that Apple will eventually release a much improved 5K Thunderbolt Display.

    5K Thunderbolt Display

    5K displays have an incredible 14.7 million pixels, resulting in sharper and crisper images, but they remain expensive. 5K models from Dell and HP retail for between $1,649 and $1,999, while Apple's all-in-one 5K iMac starts at $1,799, but cannot be used in target display mode.

    Apple already sells a 27" Retina 5K iMac, and its screen could be the basis for a corresponding 5K Thunderbolt Display. The display could share the same 5,120×2,880 resolution, USB Type-C ports for connecting Thunderbolt 3 peripherals and possibly an ultra-thin design like the newest iMacs. But no current Macs could drive such a 5K display over a single cable.

    Apple won't release the first Macs with Intel's new Skylake chips and Thunderbolt 3 support until later in 2016, and only those models will be able to drive a 5K display at 60Hz over one cable. While that makes a 5K Thunderbolt Display a possibility in 2016, Apple has good reason to wait until at least 2017.

    Intel's Skylake processors for Mac notebooks, launching in early 2016, and Kaby Lake processors, expected to launch in the first half of 2017, will not be able to drive a 5K Thunderbolt Display over Single-Stream Transport (SST). The underlying issue is that both processor lineups lack support for DisplayPort 1.3.

    Instead, the display would sync two channels over Multi-Stream Transport (MST), which can cause some performance issues. That means Apple may wait until at least Cannon Lake chipset (which promise SST 5K support) in the second half of 2017, before releasing a 5K Thunderbolt Display.

    Because external displays are a relatively small market for Apple, it's possible Apple never plans to introduce an updated Thunderbolt Display. If a new model is in the company's plans, Apple will likely wait to introduce a 5K display until 2017 when most Macs can easily support it in order to maximize supply chain efficiency.

    If you are interested in exploring third-party 4K displays, read our 4K and 5K Display Buyer's Guide for Macs.

    Article Link: Where Is Apple's 5K Thunderbolt Display?
  2. akm3 macrumors 68020

    Nov 15, 2007
    I couldn't wait anymore, for the price of one of these old monitors I bought two Dell 27" 4k monitors.
  3. cmChimera macrumors 68040


    Feb 12, 2010
    Better question. Where is Apple's 2016 Macbook Pro?

    (Then gimme thunderbolt display)
  4. Asarien macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Francisco, CA
  5. Corrode macrumors 6502a


    Dec 26, 2008
    Calgary, AB
    Thanks for synopsis. Puts it into a realistic perspective for those of us who have been waiting for what Apple does next (if anything).
  6. Zwhaler macrumors 603


    Jun 10, 2006
    Really, no DisplayPort 1.3 or 5K SST support until 2017? Seems a little ridiculous, but luckily I'm quite happy with my 27" LED Cinema Display.
  7. DevNull0 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 6, 2015
    I don't see the point in spending a fortune on a 5k display. For the money, I'd rather have a 4k screen and a video card that would really take advantage of it (980 Ti).

    Having all those pixels and computer hardware that chokes just trying to show a simple GUI seems silly to me.
  8. bpeeps macrumors 68020


    May 6, 2011
    Might want to give them a little more than 15 days to release it.
  9. developer13245 macrumors regular


    Nov 15, 2012
    Where is Apple's 5K Thunderbolt Display?
    It comes with a CPU/GPU, etc.. it's an iMac...
  10. reden macrumors 6502

    Aug 30, 2006
    If Apple does eventually introduce a 5K display with USB Type-C, I just hope they offer an adapter to use two Thunderbolt 2 ports on my Mac Pro. I think Apple should introduce a 4K and 5K display lineup. Additionally, offer an adapter for the iMac 5K using two Thunderbolt 2 ports in Target Display Mode.

    Apple loves adapters now anyway!
  11. bdkennedy1 macrumors 65816

    Oct 24, 2002
    It probably just isn't worth it for them to upgrade it. Apple's 30" Cinema Display was refreshed once in 8 years.
  12. nt5672 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 30, 2007
    Well once they got the size shrunk down it was too small to really use, so I think they dropped it. Didn't really fit into their innovation goals.
  13. waquzy macrumors regular


    Sep 9, 2013
    Should be here around March
  14. Icaras macrumors 601


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Why is MR posting outdated information? Apple skipped over a 4K iMac?

  15. fermat-au macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2009
    I don't think that Apple will ship a 4K/5K until almost all laptops and the Mac mini can drive them. The 'High End' Apple display has traditionally been intended to Mac Tower, the Mac Pro and the Power G3/4/5 before. Since the Intel transition the Mac Pro has become more 'Pro' and the iMac has become the Pro Mac for many many users. The market for external displays for Macs has become more about laptops not desktops.
  16. jclo Editor


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2012
    A 4K 27" iMac. Post has been fixed.
  17. flat five macrumors 68040

    flat five

    Feb 6, 2007
  18. fermat-au macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2009
    What Mac are you running those Dells off? a new Mac Pro

    Personally I would have probably brought a Dell over an Apple display as I generally prefer matte over glossy glass.

    A year or so ago I was in an Apple Store and they had a 4K Matte display (Panasonic ?) attracted to a new Mac Pro next to a Mac mini with an Apple Display, the non Apple display looked far better in my opinion.
  19. Icaras macrumors 601


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Thanks for that. This is just me really hoping one day that Apple will one day expand the display lineup with a smaller 4K 21.5" TBD. I miss the days when Apple had multiple Cinema Display size offerings.
  20. ProjectManager101 macrumors 6502


    Jul 12, 2015
    It is a product that is not profitable to Apple. People have iMacs or other options for displays so... there is no rush in a market already flooded with options, it is more like an accessory.
  21. Pakaku macrumors 68000


    Aug 29, 2009
    Some people will still buy used 30" ACDs these days because they're just that nice.
  22. cbt macrumors newbie

    Sep 9, 2009
    This assumes that we're completely dependant upon Intel implementing DisplayPort 1.3. I'm hoping we're not.

    As far as I recall, the incoming generation of NVidia / AMD discreet GPU's should support it, which would mean the refreshed pro line could support it.

    This would at the very least enable the pro gear to connect - and maybe MST for the rest?

    The trickier issue imo is that thunderbolt 3 doesn't support DisplayPort 1.3. I think that just makes life confusing!
  23. naeS1Sean macrumors 6502a


    Oct 14, 2011
    Scranton, PA
  24. Joe Rossignol Editor

    Joe Rossignol

    Staff Member

    May 12, 2012
    5K iMac cannot be used in target display mode, so it can't be an external display for my MacBook Pro.

    5K iMac seems like a great deal. A whole desktop computer for $150 more than Dell's 5K monitor, but it doesn't fill the 5K Thunderbolt Display void (yet).
  25. mozumder macrumors 6502a

    Mar 9, 2009
    I'm still running my original 30" ACD from 2004 as my main display.

    Best tech investment ever.

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